A family website can be a great way to stay connected, share photos and videos, post family news, and preserve your family history. Having an online space just for your family allows you to communicate and collaborate even when you’re far apart. Building and maintaining a family website does take some time and effort, but it can be a rewarding project that brings your family closer together. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through all the steps involved in creating your own family website, from choosing a hosting platform to adding content and features.
Choosing a Hosting Platform
The first step in building a family website is choosing where to host it. Here are some of the most popular options to consider:
Shared Hosting: One of the most affordable options is shared web hosting. With shared hosting, your site shares server space and resources with other sites. Popular options include Bluehost, HostGator, and GoDaddy. The benefit is lower costs, but you have less control over the server environment.
WordPress Hosting: For a WordPress site, specialized WordPress hosting provides optimized servers and auto WordPress installation. Companies like WP Engine and Kinsta offer managed WordPress hosting with high performance and security. It costs more but can handle heavy traffic.
Website Builders: Services like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly let you create a site by using their templates and drag-and-drop editors. This can be great for beginners as there’s little to no coding required. However, you have less flexibility and control.
Cloud Hosting: Services like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure allow you to launch a virtual private server and scale resources up and down as needed. This offers flexibility and customization but requires more technical expertise.
When deciding on hosting, look at your budget, how much customization you need, anticipated traffic levels, and any specific features or integrations you want.
Choosing a Domain Name
You’ll also need to choose a domain name for your family website. Your domain is your website’s address on the internet – for example www.yourfamilyname.com. Here are some tips for picking the right domain:
- Use your family’s last name if available – this makes your site easy to find and remember
- Keep it short and simple if possible – the shorter the better
- Avoid hyphens and numbers – these can be confusing
- Consider key family words or phrases – like combining last name with “family” or “memories”
- Check domain availability – go to sites like GoDaddy or Namecheap to see if your desired name is taken
- Pick a .com if you can – this is the classic domain extension that’s universally understood
Your domain should be unique, meaningful to your family, and easy to spell and remember. Register it for at least 2 years initially.
Choosing a Site Structure
Before you start building out your family website, it’s important to plan out the structure and navigation. Think about what pages and sections you want to include. Here are some common pages to consider:
- Home page – Welcome message, latest family news, photos
- About Us – Your family’s story, genealogy, facts
- Family Tree – Visual tree with ancestors, relatives, descendants
- Family History – Stories, timelines, biographies of family members
- Photo Albums – Organized collections of family photos and videos
- Family News/Blog – Latest family events, announcements, updates
- Recipes – Beloved family recipes and food traditions
- Contact Us – Form to get in touch, mailing list signup
The navigation menu should make it easy to find all the main pages. Try to stick to 5-8 top-level pages for clarity.
Choosing Design Elements
Now it’s time to think about design elements like color schemes, fonts, and imagery. These choices will shape the look and feel of your site.
- Color palette – Pick 2-4 colors that reflect your family’s aesthetic. Earth tones promote warmth.
- Fonts – Choose 1-2 easy-to-read fonts for headlines and body text. Sans-serif fonts like Arial work for most sites.
- Images – Incorporate family photos throughout the site. Create a cohesive look with color filters.
- Icons – Use icons to enhance navigation and visual interest. Libraries like FontAwesome have icons for everything.
- Logo – A family logo can be a memorable visual anchor for your site. It can incorporate motifs like trees, houses, or birds.
Aim for visual consistency across all pages. This creates a unified brand for your family’s site.
Writing Your Family History
One of the most meaningful parts of a family site is telling your family’s story. Where did you come from? How did the family spread and grow over time?
Pull together historical facts, photos, family folklore, and ancestral records to piece together a narrative:
- Research genealogy sites for records like birth/death certificates, obituaries, ship logs, census reports, and newspaper archives. Verify facts.
- Interview your oldest living family members about their experiences and knowledge before it’s lost.
- Find old family photos and memorabilia like journals, letters, and postcards that tell a story. Digitize them.
- Capture family folklore like origin stories, memorable relatives, family traditions, heirloom histories, old recipes, and handed-down wisdom.
- Create a timeline going as far back as you can that highlights important family events, memories, periods, and figures.
- Write biographies for significant family members. Bring their stories to life.
Recording your family history preserves it for future generations. Take time to do it right.
Building Family Trees and Profiles
Family trees and member profiles are centerpieces of most family websites. They help map out relationships and how everyone is connected.
When building family trees:
- Use genealogy sites like Ancestry.com to start your research. Download a GEDCOM file to import data.
- Design a tree format. Common options are vertical, horizontal, circular, and stacked. Allow for growth.
- Start with the oldest known ancestors and branch down through generations.
- Link names to individual family member profile pages for more on each person.
- Make it interactive. Allow visitors to click through different branches and see how they connect.
- Source information so future generations understand how you pulled it all together.
For member profiles, include bios, photos, vital details (b. date, birthplace, etc), life stories, and connections to other family members.
Collecting and Organizing Photos
Photos bring your family stories to life. They capture memories and milestone moments. Here’s how to compile and organize all those treasured family photos:
- Gather old printed photos from family collections and digitize them with a scanner.
- Request digital photos from relatives near and far. Set up a shared Dropbox folder to collect.
- Take new family portraits specifically for the site. Get candid shots at gatherings too.
- Interview older family as you view photos together. Ask for stories behind each one. Record details.
- Organize photos chronologically in albums by decade or generation. Or group by family branch and individual.
- Tag people, places, dates, and events so photos are searchable. Use titles like “John and Jane’s wedding”.
- Display photos attractively. Edit for consistent size and brightness. Add borders or filters.
Well-organized, captioned photos make family memories last. They become treasured archives.
Collecting Family Recipes
Many family websites include pages to preserve and share traditional family recipes. Food often plays a big role in family traditions. Here are some tips for collecting recipes:
- Ask relatives for beloved family recipes during get-togethers when possible. Write them down carefully.
- Transcribe handwritten recipe cards and notebooks. Type them up cleanly.
- Scan old newspaper clippings, magazine pages, and cookbook entries contributed by family members.
- Verify ingredient lists and directions through discussion. Clarify any ambiguous steps.
- Document the history behind each recipe. Who created it? On what occasions was it served? Does it have a nickname?
- Organize recipes by sections like entrees, side dishes, desserts, holiday foods, cookouts, etc.
- Include photos of the prepared dishes when possible. Credit recipe contributors.
- Get permission before sharing any recipes that aren’t original family creations.
Curating your family recipes preserves food traditions for future descendants who will treasure them.
Adding Interactive Features
Beyond content, you can enrich your family site by incorporating interactive features like guestbooks, forums, and member logins. These foster community:
- Guestbook – Allow visitors to post messages about their connections or memories. Email sign-up too.
- Forum – Set up categories for discussing family history, genealogy, reunions, etc.
- Family map – Show pins where family members are located. Allow visitors to add theirs.
- Members area – Provide logins so relatives can access private content only shared with family.
- Calendar – Post family events and reminders like reunions, trips, and milestones.
- Social media feeds – Embed feeds from family Instagram, Facebook, or Youtube accounts.
- Family news – Create a blog, announce big events, or post a family newsletter.
Keep features positive, useful, and mobile-friendly. Focus on fostering connections through sharing and interaction.
Maintaining and Expanding Your Site
Once your family website goes live, the work isn’t done. Websites need ongoing maintenance and fresh content. Here are some tips:
- Update new genealogy discoveries, family news, photos, videos, and profile information regularly.
- Expand family history narratives, ancestor profiles, recipe and photo collections as you get more contributions.
- Keep software updated for optimal performance. Watch for broken links and fix promptly.
- Renew your domain name and hosting plan so the site stays online. Budget for any increased costs.
- Backup the site data in case the site ever goes down. No one wants to lose family memories and history.
- Promote the site on social media and through emails so relatives know it’s there and contribute content.
Appoint a site editor in the family to manage maintenance and content updates. Keep things fresh!
Building a family website takes effort but provides immense rewards as your family story comes together in one place online. Follow the steps in this guide, from planning the structure to launching the site to maintaining and expanding the content over time. The end result will be a treasured family archive and resource for you, your children, and future generations of your family. By investing time now, you ensure your family’s memories, photos, recipes, and history live on.